TALLAHASSEE (FBC)—One Florida Baptist pastor in the Sunshine State’s capital city doesn’t focus on financial capital when leading his church to increase its monetary gifts to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program. He focuses on faces.
Seminole Baptist Church pastor Gary Linton focuses on the faces of people whose lives have been touched through Southern Baptists’ missions efforts. In Sunday services, mid-week activities and other times when church members are gathered, Linton intentionally uses video clips and other materials provided by the Florida Baptist Convention, as well as sermons and conversations, so that “church members can see and understand who they’re giving to. We put a face to the offerings received.”
Those faces might include the face of a Haitian who, after living in a tent for years, is given a one-room home, the result of Florida Baptist mission efforts; or, a child, feeling loved and secure for the first time, in a Florida Baptist children’s home; or a college student, experiencing new-found freedom and opportunities for service through Baptist campus ministries.
The Cooperative Program “is all about people and missions,” said the pastor, who recently presented the Florida Baptist Convention with an “over and above” check equaling one percent of its annual Cooperative Program gifts.
“We are independent with a little “i.” We associate and cooperate because we can do more together than we can individually.”
Serving his church since 2009, Linton said that educating church members about the Cooperative Program is an ongoing effort, particularly for those coming into the church from non-Southern Baptist backgrounds.
“We can’t take for granted that everyone knows what it means,” he said, smiling when he recalled that at least one person asked him if Cooperative Program monies were a “franchise fee” to be a Southern Baptist church.
Launched in 1925, the Cooperative Program is a mission strategy of giving in which an individual church voluntarily sends a portion of its regular offering to the Florida Baptist Convention, which retains a portion for ministries, missions and evangelistic efforts in the state and then sends a portion to the Southern Baptist Convention, which distributes money to the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and six seminaries.
Florida Baptists have set a goal to distribute any Cooperative Program monies received evenly between Florida and Southern Baptist missionary activities.
“Our pastor is sold out on the Cooperative Program,” said Mike Strickland, former deacon chairman at Seminole Baptist and current State Board of Missions member for Florida Baptists.
When Strickland began his service on the State Board in 2010, he wanted to learn as much as possible. A lifelong Southern Baptist, Strickland recalls being “in awe of the needs and ministries that were taking place all over the state, country and world” after attending his first state board meeting.
“I returned to our church in Tallahassee with a renewed vigor for the Cooperative Program,” he said.
Sharing testimonies with his pastor of how Florida Baptists, through the Cooperative Program, were making a difference in individuals’ lives “would bring tears to my eyes,” he said.
“I am very passionate and proud of Florida Baptists and the ways they are resourceful with the Cooperative Program monies.”
Together the pastor and layman challenged Seminole Baptist Church to become a “quarterback church,” increasing its gifts to the Cooperative Program by a quarter of a percent over the next four years.
Without hesitancy or resistance, church members responded, “Why wait?” The church voted unanimously in a business meeting to give a full one percent over and above its regular gifts to the Cooperative Program, presenting the unexpected and generous check to John Sullivan, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer.
“We have asked our churches to increase Cooperative Program giving one percent over a period of four years. Seminole Baptist Church did it all in one year. This means additional income for the four-year period to assist us in winning Florida to Christ,” said a grateful Sullivan.
“Florida Baptists always do better what we do together!”
Editors’ Note: October is Cooperative Program month. For more information on how your church can become a partner with other Florida Baptist churches through participation in the Cooperative Program, go to: http://www.flbaptist.org/MinistryPrograms/AC/CooperativeProgram.aspx
You must be login before you can leave a comment. Click here to Register if you are a new user.